A tank farm is a facility where petroleum products are stored prior to being disbursed to end consumers or retail facilities. People may also use the term “oil depot” to refer to a tank farm. Some farms are owned by a single company which uses the farm to meet its needs, while others are administered by a group. It is also possible for facilities to have their own tank farms for the purpose of storing fuel on site, with airports being a classic example of a facility which needs to have a lot of fuel on hand.
The facilities at a tank farm are usually very basic. Tanks can be above or below ground, with plumbing so that tanks can be connected to tankers and piping for the purpose of dispensing fuel and refilling the tanks. Many tank farms are located near refineries, ports, rail yards, and major trucking terminals, for convenience. These locations make it easy to move fuel in and out of the farm. A tank farm can also be located along a pipeline used to transport petroleum products. The farm may also have facilities to store delivery trucks, as seen when a company which sells natural gas or propane to the public makes deliveries to home tanks.
Some security facilities are necessary at a tank farm, because the farm represents a significant fire risk. Someone could target the farm for sabotage or terrorism, causing a large fire and potentially endangering the fuel supply if the farm is large. People also want to avoid accidents at tank farms which could result in accidental release of fuel, explosions, fires, and other problems. Guards are usually posted on site and the site is locked and regularly inspected to confirm that all systems are operating as they should be.
Companies which sell fuel to gas stations keep fuel on tank farms, sending out delivery trucks on a regular basis to fill up the storage tanks at the gas station. Tank farms can contain a mix of fuel, including gasoline with various octane ratings and diesel, along with fuels like propane and natural gas. Each tank is clearly labeled to indicate the contents and provide information about safety.
Small tank farms are sometimes kept at bus yards and other transit facilities for the purpose of refueling vehicles. This eliminates the need to buy fuel commercially, and allows maintenance crews to handle maintenance tasks in a convenient location.